Each with their own individual personalities and characteristics, the Doctor Who Girl has held the heartstrings of science fiction fans for fifty years, making them as much of an institution in British pop culture as Doctor Who himself!
As Whovians around the world celebrate fifty years of Doctor Who, lest we forget that this also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Doctor Who Girl. As important to British pop culture as the James Bond Girl, the Doctor Who Girls are made up of a collective of women who boarded the TARDIS for intergalactic adventure with the centuries old Time Lord. The Doctor Who Girl is as important to the series as the monsters and the adventures themselves. For generations, science fiction fans have developed school boy crushes on these girls. For many, it was the Doctor Who Girl that generated the first pangs of lust and desire from their pre-pubescent hearts, while some of the girls became something for the Dad’s to watch while the kids thrilled to the inter-dimensional adventures of the Doctors. But the Doctor Who Girl provided much more than eye candy to the show. Acting as side-kicks, damsel in distresses, daughter figures and, in recent years, love interests to The Doctor, the Doctor Who Girl was a character for The Doctor to talk to, and often was the character in which the viewer could best relate to. Of course, the boys weren’t the only ones looking. Lots of female viewers had crushes on the dozen or so men who shared The Doctor’s adventures, such as Ian Chesterton, Jamie McCrimmon, Harry Sullivan, Captain Jack Harkness and Adric (well…..maybe not Adric. Nobody had a crush on Adric), and in recent years The Doctor himself has moved away from being the gruff eccentric hero of yesteryear to a more romantic hero that have won over the hearts of female viewers. But the Doctor Who Girls are truly the sex symbols of Doctor Who, and have a special place in the history of British culture all their own.
In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the show I’d like to pay homage to the Doctor Who Girl by showcasing my ten personal favorites. Of course we all have our favorites for various reasons. Obviously the ones we grew up on always hold a special place. But keep in mind, this is not a list of the ten best companions (we all know that Sara Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen, is the best companion) or the most sexiest (Katy Manning’s [Jo Grant] nude pin-up with a Dalek is legendary, and Nicola Bryant’s [Peri Brown] breasts got so much screen time that they could have had supporting credits of their own). Instead, these are the companions that lit a fire in the mind and heart of this Doctor Who fan, who has loved them since he was a nine year old boy. These are the girls that inter galactic dreams are made of.
Doctor Who Girl #1 – Susan Foreman
Played by Carole Ann Ford
Companion of: The First Doctor
Place of Origin: Gallifrey
First Appearance: The Unearthly Child (1963)
Final Appearance: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964)
Reappearance: The Five Doctors (1983)
Carole Ann Ford was the girl who started it all as the very first Doctor Who Girl. Playing the granddaughter of the mysterious Doctor, she was the unearthy child referenced in the title of the very first Doctor Who episode who sparked an interest in teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, which led them on their adventures through time and space. With a youthful appeal and boundless energy, the impish Susan was the original “damsel in distress”, as she faced down Daleks, Sensorites and the earliest Doctor Who monsters with panicked shrieks. Although Jacquelin Hill, in the role of Barbara, also inhabited the TARDIS, she played the role of the more mature school matron, leaving Susan to control the heartstrings of school boys all across England. However, while she was supposed to be playing a sixteen year old girl, Carole Ann Ford was in reality twenty three years old, which affected her career greatly. In interviews Ford recalls getting letters from disheartened little boys that were in love with her, only to find out that she was too old for them, and she was once quoted as saying “I left Doctor Who after eighteen months as my character was going nowhere. In truth, I wished I had never gone into it. Afterwards all the scripts that came my way were for fifteen year olds.” Susan is also notable to be the first character to leave the series when her grandfather locked her out of the TARDIS when she falls in love with a young man in the year 2525. As she cried and pleaded to be let back into the TARDIS, The Doctor promised that one day he’d return for her. He never did. This remains to be the longest open ended plot thread in Doctor Who history, and one that the BBC needs to one day revisit. In recent years we’ve established that The Doctor has a daughter and a wife. Perhaps Carole Ann Ford, now age seventy, needs to make a return and the mysterious origin of The Doctor’s granddaughter can finally be revealed.
Doctor Who Girl #2 – Victoria Waterfield
Played by Deborah Watling
Companion of: The Second Doctor
Place of Origin: Earth, Victorian England
First Appearance: The Evil of the Daleks (1967)
Final Appearance: The Fury of the Deep (1968)
For years none of Victoria Waterfield’s adventures with the Doctor were available to the public. Only in recent years have we finally been able to get to know her. When the BBC foolishly destroyed over a hundred Doctor Who tapes in order to make room in their archives, the majority of Patrick Troughton’s adventures were decimated, including every episode Victoria ever appeared in. However, via stills and promotional photos, fans were captivated by the beauty of actress Deborah Watling. Possibly the most naturally beautiful of all of the Doctor Who Girls, Victoria had sparkling eyes and an old world elegance which suited the era of her origins. Orphaned during the Daleks attempt to conquer Victorian England, the Doctor and his sturdy sidekick Jaime McCrimmon took the lonely girl in for a wild ride through time and space, where she shrieked and fainted as every great damsel in distress ought to, before being adopted by a nice couple in modern day England a year later. Only now are fans just starting to get to truly know Victoria Waterfield through the miraculous discovery of missing episodes by devoted fans who have been scrounging collections and archives worldwide. In 1991 tapes of Victoria’s second story, The Tomb of the Cybermen, were discovered in Hong Kong, giving a new generation of viewers their first look at the Doctor Who Girl they read about in the TARGET novelizations, but never saw. Although it seemed like the search for missing Doctor Who episodes dried up thereafter, in 2013 an additional two Troughton ear adventures, The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear, were found in Nigeria, giving the modern audience more of Victoria Waterfield, and proving that she was as charming as we always imagined her. Could more of Victoria Waterfield’s adventures be out there somewhere in dusty basements and forgotten archives? Let’s hope so!
Doctor Who Girl #3 – Leela
Played by Louis Jameson
Companion of: The Fourth Doctor
Place of Origin: An unnamed jungle planet in the far future
First Appearance: The Face of Evil (1977)
Final Appearance: The Invasion of Time (1978)
When the immensely popular Sarah Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen, left Doctor Who after a remarkable run of four years (Sladen still holds the record as the longest running Doctor Who Girl even without the inclusion of her spin off series, modern day appearances and various returns to the franchise), the Doctor Who production team had to pull out all the stops for the next companion. With Sladen’s introduction of women’s lib into the TARDIS, the age of the damsel in distress seemed to be over, and to return to that sort of Doctor Who companion would have seemed like two steps backwards. With a number of different ideas for the new companion being thrown around the writer’s room, the writing team wisely squashed them all together and brilliantly created Leela, played by Louis Jameson. In a skimpy leather outfit and knee high suede boots, Leela was the living embodiment of a savage woman from one of Frank Frazetta’s fantasy paintings. Created as an inspired combination of Emma Peel and Eliza Doolittle, Leela wasn’t the girl that ran away shrieking from the monster of the week. Brandishing a knife, she’d gut an Ice Warrior like a wild pig before she’d run away from it. However, as a jungle warrior traveling through space and time, she played Eliza Doolittle to Tom Baker’s Henry Higgins as he educated her in the ways of the universe, expanding her mind and experiences. The result was that she became popular with both the boys who wanted to fall in love with her, and the girls who wanted to kick ass like her (Leela was even created into a doll by the Mego company that became a popular collectable for kids of both genders). Meanwhile, her revealing costume added a sense of sex never before seen in the TARDIS, where it was reported that she became a favorite for older viewers, and “Dads.” Discovered by the Doctor on a jungle planet, Leela became an ally, a student and a bodyguard to the Doctor through a series of adventures, before finally leaving him to start a new life on The Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey when she fell in love with the leader of the Chancellery Guards. Thus, in modern Who mythos, that means that Leela is now dead with the destruction of Gallifrey during the Dalek/Time Lord war….or is she?
Doctor Who Girl #4 – Romana II
Played by Lalla Ward
Companion of: The Fourth Doctor
Place of Origin: Gallifrey
First Appearance: Destiny of the Daleks (1979)
Last Appearance: Warriors Gate (1981)
In 1978 the Doctor Who team attempted to do something a little different by sending The Doctor on an epic season long adventure which would be linked through his various stories. Searching for the Keys to Time, the Doctor was teamed up with a member of his own race, a Time Lady named Romana, played by actress Mary Tamm. With long dark hair and cat like eyes, Tamm played Romana as a serious and sultry Time Lady dressed in silks and furs. However, unhappy with the fact that the writers were returning her character to the “damsel in distress” companion of Doctor Who’s past, Tamm decided to leave when her contract ended at the end of the season. This gave the BBC a chance to allow the first Romana to regenerate into the second Romana, played by blonde and girlish Lalla Ward. Establishing that Time Ladies can change form at whim, while Time Lords can only do so while dying, Romana tried on a host of different bodies before settling on that similar to an Atrioian Princess. With a talent to go from being serious to perky in a heartbeat, Lalla Ward had a classic timeless beauty that has never seemed dated, and while she was an intellectual match for the Doctor, she didn’t seem to mind being chased down by monsters of the week. But Lalla Ward differed herself from other companions by becoming the series’ first, and arguably only, fashion icon. A virtual clothes horse, Romana changed her outfits with each adventure, and never had the costume designs been so good, and so fashionable, as they were for Lalla Ward. Viewers and fashion designers began to take notice; especially the Dad’s when she appeared in a sort of school girl outfit in City of Death. Lalla was even able to make The Doctor’s hat, coat and scarf sexy in a playful photo shoot she did with items from Tom Baker’s wardrobe. With Doctor Who firmly established in North America, fans from two continents were falling in love with Lalla Ward, and they weren’t alone. The notoriously stormy and eccentric Tom Baker was also enamoured with his new co-star. The two began their own love affair and got hitched in 1980. However, the marriage would dissolve after only sixteen months. These days, Lalla Ward’s ongoing joke is answering the stardard fan question “What was your favorite Doctor Who monster” with the reply “Tom Baker.” Lalla Ward left Doctor Who in 1981 just prior to Tom Baker’s announcement that he was leaving the series and was last seen trudging through e-space with K-9 in tow, making her departure the first sign of the end of the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who.
Doctor Who Girl #5 – Nyssa of Traken
Played by Sarah Sutton
Companion of: The Fourth Doctor/The Fifth Doctor
Place of Origin: Traken
First Appearance: Keeper of Traken (1981)
Final Appearance: Terminus (1983)
You never forget your first childhood crush, and for me it was Sarah Sutton in the role of Nyssa of Traken. Although I discovered the series a bit earlier, at the age of nine, when Sarah Sutton made her appearance under that mop of curls, that turned up nose, the little flimsy tiara and that head to toe crushed velvet outfit, love first found Sam Tweedle! She wasn’t what you’d call sexy, but something about her serious demeanor, her brains and her regal background just did something for me, and helped define my “type” of women. To this day I am attracted to smart women who aren’t classically beautiful, but still have that special unique thing. Anticipating Tom Baker’s departure from Doctor Who, the production team sought to create a strong supporting cast for the audience to lean on when Baker, who had played the role for seven years and was the only Doctor most North Americans had ever seen, left the show. When Sarah Sutton took on the role of Nyssa for the 1981 story The Keeper of Traken, the writers did not intend her to become a regular cast member. However, with Lalla Ward gone from the series, and the “new” Doctor Who girl Janet Fielding, as Tegan Jovanka, yet to appear, both Sarah Sutton and Nyssa proved immensely popular with the viewers and the Doctor Who production team. The result was having her quickly written into the next story, Catrovalva, which would also introduce Tegan, end Tom Baker’s era and introduce the audience to Peter Davison. It was a crowded episode, but Nyssa’s charm and sophistication made her stand out amongst all the changes. A member of the royal house of Traken with a scientific background, Nyssa joined The Doctor when her father was murdered and her planet destroyed by The Master. Nyssa became a unique companion in that while she was often an intellectual equal to The Doctor in a scientific sense, The Doctor became a father figure to her, harking back to William Hartnell’s relationship with Susan and Vicki, and Patrick Troughton’s relationship with Victoria. Furthermore, not since the original cast from 1963 had two women traveled together in the TARDIS. Yet instead of cramping each other’s style, Tegan and Nyssa became almost like two sisters who played off of each other and had separate strengths and roles in the series. Tegan was the older, brasher and wiser sister who was both a foil and confidant of The Doctor, while Nyssa was the smart, bookish and shy sister who often became the damsel of distress. Yet all Doctor Who Girls’ times come to an end, and despite her popularity Nyssa left the TARDIS to help a leper colony find a cure, but not before treating the fans when she dropped her skirt and pranced around a freighter ship in a silk slip for four episodes after spending her entire time in the TARDIS being conservatively dressed. For this nine year old fan, that was a defining moment in my sexual awakening! A decade later, at the age of nineteen, I had the chance to meet Sarah Sutton in person when she made an appearance in Toronto. Going to her autograph table I blurted out “I was totally in love with you when I was nine.” Her response to me was “Well, I certainly hope you got over it.” Well, it I hadn’t, at that point I certainly had. But, in 2013 at a convention celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who I met a cosplayer dressed in an incredible replica of Nyssa’s Keeper of Traken costume who turned me into a babbling mess. Obviously I have a little love for Nyssa of Traken in my heart today.
Doctor Who Girl #6 – Ace
Played by Sophie Aldred
Companion of: The Seventh Doctor
Place of Origin: 20th Century London (Perivale)
First Appearance: Dragonfire (1987)
Final Appearance: Survival (1988)
The final companion of the classic Doctor Who era, Sophie Aldred was cast in the role of sixteen year old street urchin Ace during a very difficult time in the series’ history. With the BBC no longer interested in the franchise, viewership down worldwide and barely escaping cancellation two years earlier, the previous Doctor, Colin Baker and his companions, Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant) and Melanie Bush (Bonnie Langford), proved to be unpopular with viewers. While Peri became a cult favorite for all the wrong reason; namely her revealing cleavage, large breasts and a now famous bikini publicity shot, an entire essay could be written on the obnoxiousness of Melanie. When Sylvester McCoy was cast to try to save the series as being a different kind of Doctor, Sophie Aldred was a much needed different kind of Doctor Who Girl, which resulted in her being one of the most beloved and best developed companions in the history of Classic Doctor Who. Sort of a combination of Leela and Susan, Ace was a rebellious street kid who becomes The Doctor’s protégé when he finds her working as a waitress on the ice planet of Svartos. Tough talking with a chip on her shoulder, The Doctor recognized that Ace actually had a heart of gold and was in need of guidance, and takes the girl under his wing. Meanwhile, armed with an electrically charged baseball bat, Ace felt that The Doctor, who she affectionately calls “Professor”, was in need of protection and had her own protective nature towards the Time Lord. Ready to fight her own battles, Ace’s most iconic moment was in Remembrance of the Dalek when she destroys a Dalek single handily by bashing it to death with her baseball bat. That Ace was hard-core! But beyond the tough exterior, Ace had a lot of heart and was cute in a tom boy kind of way. Through her journeys with The Doctor, not only did viewers began to piece together Ace’s background, but saw her grow up from a rebellious girl to a heroic woman. Viewers never saw Ace’s story finished as Doctor Who would be cancelled in 1988, but production notes stated that the writers planned for Ace to leave the series by having her enter the Time Lord Academy on Gallifrey where she would eventually become a Time Lady. When Doctor Who returned for the American TV film in 1996 Sylvester McCoy appeared travelling without a companion, leaving Ace’s final fate unknown. However, various spin off projects, including comics, novels and audio plays, have offered different versions of Ace’s final fate including having her living in Paris, hunting Daleks on her own, becoming a Time Lady as originally planned and even being dead. Whatever her fate, Ace was the last of the great Classic Doctor Who Girls.
Doctor Who Girl #7 – Rose Tyler
Played by Billie Piper
Place of Origin: 21st Century London
Companion of: The Tenth Doctor/The Eleventh Doctor
First Appearance: Rose (2005)
Final Appearance: Journey’s End (2008)
Reappearances: The End of Time (2010), Day of the Doctor (2013)
Billie Piper was a bit of a shocking choice when she was cast as the first Doctor Who Girl for the 2005 revival of the series. Having made a blip on the British pop scene in 1998 with Because We Want To and Honey to the B, her career had flat lined as a minor pop princess with issues. But the BBC knew something that the critics didn’t – Billie Piper was a much better actress than she was a singer. There is no doubt that Billie Piper, in the role of Rose Tyler, was essential to the rebirth of the Doctor Who franchise, and pivotal to its popularity today. Playing am average girl with average looks who liveed an uninspired life dominated by her overbearing mother and her dim boyfriend, Rose became the modern Who viewer’s touchstone as she entered a world of adventures with Christopher Ecceleston. The viewer watched the world of The Doctor unfold through Rose’s eyes, and new viewers that weren’t familiar with the original series learnt of the Doctor’s past and present at the same time Rose did, learning all you needed to know one step at a time. Spunky, courageous and romantic, Rose Tyler became universally loved by all fans of all genders, who immediately connected to her as an extension of themselves. But Rose Tyler became special to the series in the fact that she was the first companion that fans accepted The Doctor falling in love with. While the traditional Doctor was asexual, and no hint of romantic love was ever allowed in the TARDIS, romance was actually first introduced in a sloppy and cliqued kiss between Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor and his one off companion Doctor Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrooke) in the ill-fated American TV movie, which was an element of the script universally loathed by fans. But it was the well-paced layers of romance that won over new and old fans alike for Rose and the Doctor. Fans could relate to Rose’s unrequited love for the Doctor, and her horror when he regenerated into a man that she didn’t recognize but learned to love when Christopher Eccelston handed the role over to David Tennant. Even more dramatic was when The Doctor began to love Rose in return, only to have that love be in vain. The writers wisely kept the romance pure by having The Doctor pine for Rose despite the company of future Doctor Who Girls. In the end it became a well written, but tragic, love affair leaving the audience clamouring for more, making Billie Piper’s occasional reappearances as Rose immensely popular. Billie Piper was a driving force behind the current popularity of Doctor Who, making her possibly the most recognizable Doctor Who Girl after Elisabeth Sladen.
Doctor Who Girl #8 – Amy Pond
Played by Karen Gillan
Companion to: The Twelfth Doctor
Place of Origin: 21st Century Scotland
First Appearance: The Eleventh Hour (2010)
Last Appearance: The Angels Take Manhattan (2012)
When David Tennant gave up the role of The Doctor to Matt Smith the BBC felt that they needed another fresh start, much like they did back in 1981 when Peter Davison took over for Tom Baker due to Tennant’s immense popularity. That meant a new direction so that Matt Smith could find his own unique take on the character, and that meant a brand new Doctor Who Girl. Despite an entire season without a regular Doctor Who Girl, Karen Gillan still had some big shoes to fill when she took on the role of Amy Pond. Catherine Tate had created one of the best developed companions in years as Donna Nobel, Freema Agyeman had proven popular as Martha Jones (incidentally, the first black Doctor Who Girl), and the fans still clamoured for more Billie Piper. But Karen Gillan was able to win fans over via her own spunky nature. Making her on-screen debut dressed in a sexy cop uniform; Karen Gillan heated up the screen in ways previous modern Doctor Who Girls were yet to do and gave fans something to talk about. While Matt Smith’s performances seemed to vary between being dramatic to cartoony, Amy Pond was often the character that glued the stories together, being the dramatic figure to Matt Smith’s comedic idiot savant. But Amy Pond would be a unique companion in a number of ways, including being the first married woman in the TARDIS. Often trying to choose if her affections with were The Doctor or her Earth bound boyfriend, she eventually chose Rory, who eventually became a full time companion, and the two were married in The Big Bang. She also became the first companion to be a mother when she gives birth to a daughter after The Almost People, and is most likely the first woman to have sex in the TARDIS, as revealed in A Good Man Goes to War. Oh my! What would William Hartnell say! Feisty, passionate, courageous and often explosive, Amy’s time in the TARDIS is met with both love and tragedy, in which she starts as a lonely child who waited for her imaginary friend to return to her, and often watched loved ones die and return, get lost and restored, and eventually met with a confusing end that even I had to get explained to me. Much of the success of Matt Smith’s era is due to the presence of Amy Pond.
Doctor Who Girl #9 - Jenny Flint
Played by Catrin Stewart
Companion of: Madame Vastra (affiliated with The Twelfth Doctor)
Place of Origin: Victorian London circa 1888
First Appearance: A Good Man Goes to War (2011)
Despite not being a companion of The Doctor, Jenny Flint, played by Catrin Stewart, has become a popular reoccurring character after her appearance as the companion of Silurian Madame Vastra in The Twelfth Doctor’s episode A Good Man Goes to War. Playing a sidekick to the green skinned alien Vastra, Jenny completely kicks ass as Vastra’s Victorian house maid by day, who happens to be a sword welding assassin by night! Little is known about Jenny, but pieces of her backstory has been reconstructed through her various appearances on Doctor Who. Turned away by her family due to her lesbian tendencies, she was saved by Vastra and The Doctor from would be attackers in an unchronicled adventure. Vastra hired Jenny as a maid, and the two eventually fell in love and were married. Jenny also serves as a sort of Watson to Vastra’s Sherlock Holmes, and at some point gains training as a martial artist and sword handler. Seemingly mousy and quiet, Jenny is a ferocious hand to hand combatant and trained killer. Aided by their butler Strax, a time displaced Sontarian, Vastra and Jenny have become sort of the Peppermint Patty and Marcie of the Doctor Who universe, with their own unique story happening in their personal corner of time and space. Sure to return in future Doctor Who stories, the biggest crime to date is that these characters haven’t been given their own spin off series. Hopefully we’ll get to learn much more about Jenny Flint in the years to come.
Doctor Who Girl #10 – Clara Oswald
Played by Jenna Louise-Coleman
Companion of: The Twelfth Doctor/The Thirteenth Doctor
Place of Origin: 21st Century England
First Appearance: Asylum of the Daleks (2012)
After the departure of Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill from Doctor Who, the BBC needed a strong new player to help keep Matt Smith’s performances down to Earth as his portrayal of The Doctor became more and more unhinged. The result was the introduction of Clara Oswald, who would be one of the most complex Doctor Who Girls ever created. Played by the drop dead adorable Jenna Louise-Coleman, Clara’s story would dominate Matt Smith’s final season as The Doctor, and she would become the romantic figure to Matt Smith’s Doctor, although this time it seemed that The Doctor was the one that had the school boy crush on Clara instead of the other way around. First introduced in Asylum of the Daleks, Clara was introduced as the last survivor of a destroyed starship which is turned into a Dalek, but suppresses her reality and living in her own created fantasy in order to cope with her fate. Truly a tragic figure, she seemingly dies after helping The Doctor and his companions escape from a prison planet. The Doctor would be shocked to encounter her a second time in Victorian England, this time as a governess by day and barmaid by night, where, once again, she dies tragically. Wondering how he could see one woman die twice in two different eras, The Doctor deems Clara “The Impossible Girl” and becomes obsessed with her, eventually tracking her once again in modern day England where she is working as a live in nanny. Seemingly normal with no recollections of her previous two encounters with the time traveler, Clara and The Doctor go on a series of adventures before it is revealed that Clara sacrificed herself in order to protect The Doctor’s various incarnations due to the damage done to his time stream by The Great Intelligence. As a result, multiple versions of Clara all exist throughout time and space, all dedicated to saving The Doctor. With her fate seemingly sealed forever, she was eventually saved by The Doctor, and goes back to her life on Earth where she takes a job as a teacher at Coal Hill School (incidentally the same school Ian and Barbara taught Susan at). Compassionate and adventurous, Clara has a fondness for children, which could be part of The Doctor’s appeal to her because, let’s face it; the Twelfth Doctor is really the most childlike of all the Doctors. While the Doctor has a puppy love devotion to Clara, Clara has a protective streak to The Doctor as well. But look at that face. That is the kind of face that you’d disrupt a time stream for! Clara’s story continues at this writing, and her final fate and relationship with the Thirteenth Doctor is still yet to unfold.
PCA Dedication: This article is dedicated to the memory of all the Doctor Who Girls that we loved and lost over the fifty years of the franchise – Jacqueline Hill (1929-1993), Adrienne Hill (1937-1997), Elisabeth Sladen (1946-2011), Mary Tamm (1950 – 2012) and Carolyn John (1940-2012).